Wednesday 23rd August 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘nickel’

Robert Friedland’s favourites

July 28th, 2017

Unprecedented demand calls for unparalleled grades, the industry legend says

by Greg Klein

For all that’s being said about lithium and cobalt, Robert Friedland argues that the energy revolution also depends on copper and platinum group elements. Of course he has a stake in them himself, with Kamoa-Kakula and Platreef among his current enthusiasms. Still, whether motivated by self-interest or not, the mining titan whom Rick Rule calls “serially successful” presented a compelling case for his favourite metals at the Sprott Natural Resource Symposium in Vancouver on July 25.

We’re living in “an era of unprecedented change,” said Ivanhoe Mines’ TSX:IVN founding chairperson. China’s the main cause. That country’s “breeding mega-cities prodigiously.” But one result is “incredibly toxic air… with a whole suite of health effects” from heart attacks to stroke, asthma to Alzheimer’s.

Unprecedented demand calls for unparalleled grades, the industry legend says

A crew operates jumbo rigs to bring
Ivanhoe’s Platreef mine into PGM production.

China’s not alone. Friedland pegs current global population growth at 83 million a year, with a projected 8.5 billion people populating the planet by 2030. Five billion will inhabit urban areas. Forecasts for 2050 show 6.3 billion city-dwellers. But China, notorious for its poisoned atmosphere, “is on an air pollution jihad.” It’s an all-out effort to turn back the “airpocalypse” and, with a command economy, a goal that shall be achieved.

The main target will be the internal combustion engine, responsible for about 60% of urban air pollution, Friedland said. China now manufactures 19 million cars annually, he adds. The country plans to increase output to 60 million, a goal obviously contrary to the war on pollution unless it emphasizes electric vehicles.

Like others, Friedland sees massive disruption as the economics of EVs overtake those of internal combustion engines, a scenario he expects by 2022 or 2023.

Demand for lithium-ion batteries (comprising 4% lithium, 80% nickel sulphate and 15% cobalt) has sent cobalt prices soaring. But bigger EVs will likely rely on hydrogen fuel cells, he pointed out. They’re already used in electric SUVs, pickup trucks, double-decker buses in London, trains in Germany and China, and, expected imminently, autonomous air taxis in Dubai.

Hydrogen fuel cells need PGMs. If only one-tenth of China’s planned EV output used the technology, demand would call for the world’s entire platinum supply, Friedland said.

“I would rather own platinum than gold,” he declared. Additionally, “there’s no platinum central reserve bank to puke out platinum.”

Ivanhoe just happens to have PGMs, about 42 million ounces indicated and 52.8 million ounces inferred, at its 64%-held Platreef project in South Africa.

Unprecedented demand calls for unparalleled grades, the industry legend says

Underground development progresses at the Kansoko mine,
part of the Kamoa copper deposit and adjacent to Kakula.

Electricity for the grid also ranks high among China’s airpocalyptic priorities. A study produced for the United Nations Environment Programme credits the country with a 17% increase in renewable electricity investment last year, most of it going to wind and solar. Almost $103 billion, China’s renewables investment comes to 36% of the world total.

Just as EVs remain more copper-dependent than internal combustion, wind and solar call for much more of the conductive commodity than do other types of electricity generation. Friedland sees additional disruptive demand in easily cleaned copper surfaces now increasingly used in hospitals, care homes, cruise ships and other places where infectious diseases might lurk.

He sees a modest copper supply deficit now, with a crisis possibly starting as soon as 2019. The world needs a new generation of copper mines, he said, repeating his unkind comparison of today’s low-grade, depleting mines to “little old ladies waiting to die.” The world’s largest producer, the BHP Billiton NYSE:BHP/Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO Escondida mine in Chile, is down to a 0.52% grade.

Copper recently hit a two-year high of about $6,400 a tonne. But, citing Bernstein data, Friedland said new mines would require a $12,000 price.

Not Kamoa-Kakula, though. He proudly noted that, with an indicated resource grading 6.09%, it hosts “the richest conceivable copper deposit on this planet.”

I’ve never been as bullish in my 35 years on a project.—Robert Friedland

A JV with Ivanhoe and Zjin Mining Group each holding 39.6% and the DRC 20%, Kamoa-Kakula inspires “a plethora of superlatives.” The veteran of Voisey’s Bay and Oyu Tolgoi added, “I’ve never been as bullish in my 35 years on a project.”

The zillionaire likes zinc too, which his company also has in the DRC at the 68%-held Kipushi project. With a measured and indicated grade of 34.89%, the Big Zinc zone more than doubles the world’s next-highest-grade zinc project, according to Ivanhoe. There’s copper too, with three other zones averaging an M&I grade of 4.01%.

“Everything good in the Congo starts with a ‘K’,” he said enthusiastically.

But recklessly, in light of the DRC’s controversial Kabila family. In June Ivanhoe was hit by reports that the company has done deals with businesses held by the president’s brother, Zoe Kabila, although no allegations were made of wrongdoing.

The family has run the country, one of Africa’s poorest, since 1997. Current president Joseph Kabila has been ruling unconstitutionally since November, a cause of sometimes violent protest that threatens to further destabilize the DRC.

As the New York Times reported earlier this month:

An implosion of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country almost the size of western Europe, could spill into and involve some of the nine countries it borders. In the late 1990s, neighbouring countries were sucked into what became known as the Great War of Africa, which resulted in several million deaths.

Friedland’s nearly hour-long address made no mention of jurisdictional risk. But the audience of hundreds, presumably most of them retail investors, responded warmly to the serial success story. He’s the one who, after Ivanhoe languished at five-year lows in early 2016, propelled the stock more than 300% over the last 12 months.

King’s Bay prepares for Newfoundland copper-cobalt field program

July 26th, 2017

by Greg Klein | July 26, 2017

Update: Effective August 14, 2017, King’s Bay Gold begins trading as King’s Bay Resources TSXV:KBG.

Copper-cobalt findings dating to the 19th century have King’s Bay Gold TSXV:KBG about to begin Phase I exploration on its Trump Island project off Newfoundland’s northern coast. The company has a team ready to study historic data prior to geophysics and grab sampling on the 200-hectare property. Depending on results, Phase II could incorporate drilling.

King’s Bay prepares for Newfoundland copper-cobalt field program

The property’s exploration history dates to 1863, when a Cornish miner sunk a six-metre shaft to follow a zone of massive chalcopyrite. Mineralization reportedly expanded with depth but the technology of the time prevented further excavation. Nevertheless the Cousin Jack reportedly shipped to Wales high-grade copper-cobalt material archaically recorded as “40 pounds per fathom.”

Grab samples collected near the shaft in 1999 showed historic, non-43-101 results up to 3.8% copper, 0.3% cobalt, 2.9 g/t gold and 10.9 g/t silver.

Located seven miles south of the town of Twillingate, Trump Island has boat access to a highway 1.5 kilometres away.

Last month King’s Bay reported geophysical results from another copper-cobalt project, this one along a provincial highway in Labrador. Airborne VTEM over the 24,000-hectare Lynx Lake property revealed a shallow anomaly of high resistivity about 400 metres in diameter and 50 to 300 metres in depth. The results came from the project’s West Pit, where historic, non-43-101 grab samples showed up to 1.03% copper, 0.566% cobalt, 0.1% nickel, 5 g/t silver, 0.36% chromium, 0.39% molybdenum and 0.23% vanadium.

Lynx Lake’s summer agenda includes higher-resolution ground geophysics, possible stripping to expose bedrock south of the pit and follow-up work on historic soil samples on the property’s southeastern area, along with mapping and sampling over both areas.

The company’s portfolio also includes three Quebec properties with historic, non-43-101 cobalt results.

Earlier this month King’s Bay closed a first tranche totalling $316,250 of a private placement offered up to $725,000. The company expects to close the second tranche by the end of August. King’s Bay closed a previous financing of $938,752 in January.

Read about cobalt supply and demand.

See an infographic about cobalt.

Castle Silver Resources adds gold to cobalt-silver assays, expands drilling at Ontario past-producer

July 19th, 2017

by Greg Klein | July 19, 2017

As underground mini-bulk sampling brings high-grade results, Castle Silver Resources TSXV:CSR has increased its surface drill program at a former mine near Ontario’s Cobalt camp. An 82-kilogram sample of vein material taken near a first-level adit graded 1.48% cobalt, 5.7 g/t gold and 46.3 g/t silver. Nickel values are pending. Meanwhile the Phase I surface drill program that began earlier this month with a 1,500-metre goal has been increased to 2,000 metres in approximately 20 holes.

Castle Silver Resources adds gold to cobalt-silver assays, expands drilling at Ontario past-producer

Visible cobalt from a vein on Castle
Silver Resources Beaver project.

The gold grades have the company re-checking a previous batch of chip samples that weren’t assayed for the yellow metal. The company’s also extracting another sample from the same area to verify the results.

Castle Silver noted that the samples are “selective and should not be considered representative of mineralization underground or elsewhere on the property.”

Eighty kilometres southeast, Castle Silver has been collecting surface samples on its 100%-optioned Beaver project, another former silver mine with cobalt potential. Samples taken in 2013 from waste rock left by historic extraction graded 7.98% cobalt, 3.98% nickel and 1,246 g/t silver.

On closing a $882,500 financing last week, the company’s private placement total has hit nearly $2.6 million since March.

Read more about Castle Silver Resources here and here.

Geophysical anomaly heightens King’s Bay interest in Labrador cobalt project

June 19th, 2017

by Greg Klein | June 19, 2017

Update: Effective August 14, 2017, King’s Bay Gold begins trading as King’s Bay Resources TSXV:KBG.

Newly analyzed data has King’s Bay Gold TSXV:KBG planning to resume its search for copper and cobalt beside the Trans-Labrador Highway. Results from last winter’s 382-line-kilometre airborne VTEM survey over the Lynx Lake project reveal a shallow anomaly of high resistivity estimated at about 400 metres in diameter and 50 to 300 metres in depth. The finding comes from the property’s West Pit, where historic, non-43-101 grab samples assayed up to 1.03% copper, 0.566% cobalt, 0.1% nickel, 5 g/t silver, 0.36% chromium, 0.39% molybdenum and 0.23% vanadium.

Geophysical anomaly heightens King’s Bay interest in Labrador cobalt project

Cutting right through the property, the highway offers year-round access to the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, about 1.5 hours
away. Powerlines are under construction along the northern
part of the property.

Summer plans now call for higher-resolution ground geophysics over the target area, potentially followed by overburden stripping to expose bedrock south of the pit. The crew will also follow up on historic soil sample anomalies on the property’s southeastern area. Detailed mapping and sampling will cover both areas.

Interest began in the property as the highway was being built in 2008. A contractor with prospecting experience noticed disseminated and massive sulphides beside the new route. Along with the West Pit results, grab samples east of the highway brought non-43-101 results up to 1.39% copper, 0.94% cobalt, 0.21% nickel and 6.5 g/t silver.

Lynx Lake began as a 2,000-hectare acquisition which King’s Bay expanded to about 24,000 hectares following a review of data from government regional low-resolution magnetic surveys and preliminary handheld EM surveys.

The quest for cobalt has led King’s Bay to other acquisitions. In February the company announced a 100% option on the Trump Island copper-cobalt property in Newfoundland. Earlier that month King’s Bay picked up three Quebec properties with historic, non-43-101 cobalt sampling results.

The company closed a $938,752 private placement in January.

Read about cobalt supply and demand.

See an infographic about cobalt.

Castle Silver Resources samples 1.8% cobalt and 8.6% nickel at former silver mine

June 12th, 2017

by Greg Klein | June 12, 2017

High-grade silver distracted previous operators of Ontario’s Castle mine from high-grade cobalt and nickel, says the current project operator. Among the evidence are initial chip sample results from an underground program at Castle Silver Resources’ (TSXV:CSR) property, about 80 kilometres northwest of the historic Cobalt camp. The first five samples averaged 1.06% cobalt, 5.3% nickel and 17.5 g/t silver, with the three best assays showing:

  • 1.8% cobalt, 8.6% nickel and 25.2 g/t silver

  • 1.6% cobalt, 7.6% nickel and 32 g/t silver

  • 0.81% cobalt, 5.9% nickel and 4.1 g/t silver
Castle Silver Resources samples 1.8% cobalt and 8.6% nickel at former silver mine

Pinkish alteration reveals cobalt mineralization
just inside an adit at the former Castle silver mine.

The samples were selective “and should not be considered representative of the mineralization hosted within the target area,” the company pointed out. The samples were composites taken from a 200-kilogram bulk sample extracted a short distance inside the adit.

As reported last week, the remainder will go through the company’s proprietary Re-2OX hydrometallurgical process to produce cobalt powder samples for battery manufacturers.

Castle Silver has also been testing Re-2OX for its recycling potential in recovering lithium-cobalt from Li-ion batteries. The process “is designed for high recovery of multiple metals and elements, opening opportunities that simply didn’t exist decades ago at this mine or throughout the northern Ontario silver-cobalt district,” said president/CEO Frank Basa.

The 3,252-hectare project’s former mine consists of “11 levels covering a footprint 727 metres east-west, 455 metres north-south and 258 metres deep,” he added.

Lying under much of the property is the 300‐metre-thick Nipissing diabase intrusive, which Castle Silver interprets as a potential heat source “that mobilized various metals—notably, of course, silver intimately associated with cobalt, but also gold, copper, zinc and nickel.”

Underground bulk sampling continues as the company also builds a 3D model from historic data.

With an oversubscribed second tranche that closed last month, Castle Silver has so far raised a total of $966,500 from a private placement offer that’s been increased to $1.2 million.

Castle Silver also holds a 100% option on the Beaver and Violet cobalt-silver properties hosting former mines near the town of Cobalt, 80 kilometres southeast.

Read about cobalt supply and demand.

‘Everyone’s hiring again’

May 24th, 2017

Mining headhunter Andrew Pollard says executive recruiting presages a wave of M&A

by Greg Klein

As an executive search firm, the Mining Recruitment Group might serve as a bellwether for the industry. Founder and self-described mining headhunter Andrew Pollard says, “I put together management teams for companies, I connect people with opportunities and opportunities with people.” In that role, he experienced the upturn well before many industry players did.

To most of them, the long-awaited resurgence arrived late last year. Pollard saw it several months earlier.

Mining headhunter Andrew Pollard says executive recruiting could presage a wave of M&A

“The market came back in a huge way, at least in the hiring side, early last year when my phone started ringing a hell of a lot more,” he explains. “There was a huge volume. And what I’ve found is that the available talent pool for executives shrank in a period of about six months. In January 2016, for example, I was working on a search and there was almost a lineup out the door of some really big-name people. What I’m finding now, a year and a half later, is that the available talent has almost evaporated. It’s much harder to recruit for senior positions.”

Lately his work suggests another industry development. “The major upturn I’m seeing in the market now is a huge demand for corporate development people who can do technical due diligence on projects. Over the last few years large mining companies and investment banks cut staff almost to the bone in that regard because no one was interested in doing deals or looking at acquisitions.”

Just completed, his most recent placement was for Sprott. “They had me looking for someone with a technical background who can do due diligence for their investments. In doing so I spoke with everyone on the street, from investment banks to some big name corporate development people and they all said the same thing: Everyone’s hiring again. These are people who couldn’t get job offers a year ago, now every single candidate on the short list for this last search has multiple offers from companies looking to get them. I haven’t seen that in five years.

“So that leads me to believe companies have been staffing up their corporate development teams. I see that as a major sign that you’re going to see M&A pick up in a huge, huge way, probably over the next three to six months.”

An early example would be last week’s Eldorado Gold TSX:ELD buyout of Integra Gold TSXV:ICG—“one of my best clients over the years”—in a deal valued at $590 million.

Mining headhunter Andrew Pollard says executive recruiting could presage a wave of M&A

Andrew Pollard: Executive recruiting “leads me to believe companies have been staffing up their corporate development teams.”

“I think there’s leverage for other companies to start pulling the trigger faster because they’re adding the expertise to get these things done.”

Having founded the Mining Recruitment Group over a decade ago at the age of 20, “a snotty kid” with only a single year of related experience, he’s placed people in companies with market caps ranging from $5 million to well over $200 million. Now in a position to pick and choose his assignments, Pollard’s business concentrates on “the roles that will have the most impact on a company’s future.” That tends to be CEO, president, COO and board appointments.

Last year he placed five CEOs, as well as other positions. Among those assignments, Pollard worked with Frank Giustra on a CEO search for Fiore Exploration TSXV:F and filled another vacancy for Treasury Metals TSX:TML as it advances Goliath toward production.

But the hiring surge coincides with an industry-wide recruitment challenge. Pollard attributes that to a demographic predicament complicated by mining’s notorious cyclicality.

During the 1990s, he points out, fewer people chose mining careers, resulting in a shortage of staffers who’d now be in their 40s and 50s. Greater numbers joined up during the more promising mid-2000s, only to “get spat out” when markets went south. Now Pollard gets a lot of calls to replace baby boomers who want to retire. Too many of those retirements are coming around the same time, he says, because stock losses during the downturn had forced executives to postpone their exit.

Now, with a wave of retirements coinciding with a demographic gap, Pollard sees a “perfect storm to identify the next batch of young leaders.”

But he also sees promise in a new generation. That inspired him to assemble Young Leaders, one of two panel discussions he’ll present at the International Metal Writers Conference in Vancouver on May 28 and 29.

“By talking with some very successful executives age 35 and under, I want to show that we need to look at people one generation younger, and foster and develop this talent.”

By talking with some very successful executives age 35 and under, I want to show that we need to look at people one generation younger, and foster and develop this talent.

Well, it’s either talent or a precocious Midas touch that distinguishes these panel members. Maverix Metals TSXV:MMX CEO Dan O’Flaherty co-founded the royalty/streaming company just last year, already accumulating assets in 10 countries and a $200-million market cap.

As president/CEO of Skyharbour Resources TSXV:SYH, Jordan Trimble proved adept at fundraising and deal-making while building a 250,000-hectare uranium-thorium exploration portfolio in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. Integra president/CEO Steve de Jong raised the company from a $10-million market cap in 2012 to last week’s $590-million takeout.

And, demographic gap notwithstanding, Pollard’s second panel features three other success stories, just a bit older but with lots of potential left after guiding three of last year’s biggest M&A deals. They’ll take part in the Vision to Exit discussion, which closes the conference on May 29.

Eira Thomas burst into prominence at the Lac de Gras diamond fields where she discovered Diavik at age 24. Her most recent major coup took place last year on the Klondike gold fields with Goldcorp’s (TSX:G) $520-million buyout of Kaminak Gold.

Featherstone Capital president/CEO Doug Forster founded and led Newmarket Gold, producing over 225,000 ounces a year from three Australian mines and enticing Kirkland Lake Gold’s (TSX:KL) billion-dollar offer.

Now chairperson of Liberty Gold TSX:LGD and a director of NexGen Energy TSX:NXE, Mark O’Dea co-founded and chaired True Gold Mining, acquired in April 2016 by Endeavour Mining TSX:EDV. Three other companies that O’Dea co-founded, led and sold were Fronteer Gold, picked up by Newmont Mining NYSE:NEM in 2011; Aurora Energy, sold to Paladin Energy TSX:PDN in 2011; and True North Nickel, in which Royal Nickel TSX:RNX bought a majority interest in 2014.

“We’ll be looking at how they go into deals, what their philosophy is, what’s their current reading of the market and what they’re going to do next. They each have a big future ahead of them.”

Pollard’s two panel discussions take place at the International Metal Writers Conference on May 28 and 29 at the Vancouver Convention Centre East. Pre-register for free or pay $20 at the door.

In all, the conference brings generations of talent, expertise and insight to an audience of industry insiders and investors alike.

Read more about the International Metal Writers Conference.

Kapuskasing targets zinc past-producer to bolster Newfoundland presence

May 18th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 18, 2017

A former zinc mine with potential for another discovery would expand Kapuskasing Gold’s (TSXV:KAP) portfolio of Newfoundland prospects for high-performing metals. Under a non-binding letter of intent announced May 18, the company would get the 1,050-hectare Daniel’s Harbour property on the Rock’s Great Northern Peninsula.

The announcement follows a recent acquisition of proximal claims by Altius Minerals TSX:ALS, but the former mine sits on property covered by the Kapuskasing deal.

Kapuskasing targets zinc past-producer to bolster Newfoundland presence

In operation from 1975 to 1990, Daniel’s Harbour produced around seven million tonnes averaging 7.8% zinc. A chief characteristic was the mine’s Mississippi Valley Type deposit, a kind that characteristically occurs in clusters or districts, Kapuskasing stated. “There remains potential in the area of the old mine workings of the historic ore bodies continuing at depth or along the favourable breccia horizon,” the company added.

Subject to due diligence and approvals, the 100% acquisition calls for $60,000, 1.75 million shares and $100,000 of spending within two years. A 3% NSR applies, two-thirds of which can be bought back for $2 million. Should Kapuskasing define a resource of five million tonnes at a grade to be determined, the vendor gets a $50,000 bonus.

The news comes amid a busy few months as Kapuskasing collects properties in Newfoundland and Labrador. The company began in March with the acquisition of eight properties offering potential for copper, cobalt or vanadium. Among the standouts is Lady Pond, which an LOI announced last week would expand to 1,625 hectares covering historic mine workings. Surface grab samples graded up to 3.3% copper, 0.12% cobalt and 813 ppb gold.

While previous operators focused on copper, Kapuskasing sees potential for other metals including cobalt. The company has drilling planned later this year.

Another recently expanded March acquisition is King’s Court, now 2,275 hectares covering at least 10 copper showings at surface. Historic channel samples included 14% copper over three metres, 9.3% over 10 metres, 19% over 2.13 metres and 15.87% over 2.59 metres, along with cobalt samples up to 0.24%. The company has sent a 4.79-metre section of drill core to be re-assayed for cobalt and other elements.

Additional acquisitions bring with them historic, non-43-101 results:

  • Alexis, with grab samples up to 0.422% nickel and 0.822% cobalt

  • Cape Charles, with grab samples up to 1.12% copper, 0.47% nickel and 0.526% cobalt

  • Hayes, with a reported 27,000 tonnes averaging 54% iron, 9% titanium and 0.2% vanadium

  • Indian Head, with two dormant mines and iron-titanium-vanadium mineralization

  • Iron Mountain, with grab samples up to 39.8% iron and 0.26% vanadium

  • Ross Lake, with drill intercepts of 21.49% titanium dioxide, 0.24% vanadium and 0.16% chromium oxide over 13 metres; as well as 15.9% titanium dioxide, 0.2% vanadium and 0.13% chromium oxide over 11 metres

Again, those are historic, non-43-101 results.

With Daniel’s Harbour and Lady Pond as dual flagships, Kapuskasing has a busy year planned. Last month the company offered private placements totalling up to $750,000, including up to $250,000 in flow-through.

Infographic: Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

May 8th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | May 8, 2017

Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

 

Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

The inner-workings of most commercialized batteries are typically pretty straightforward.

The lead-acid battery, which is the traditional battery used in the automotive sector, is as easy as it gets. Put two lead plates in sulphuric acid and you’re off to the races.

However, lithium-ion batteries are almost infinitely more complex than their predecessors. That’s because “lithium-ion” refers to a mechanism—the transfer of lithium ions—which can occur in a variety of cathode, anode and electrolyte environments. As a result, there’s not just one type of lithium-ion battery, but instead the name acts as an umbrella that represents thousands of different formulations that could work.

The cathode’s importance

This infographic comes to us from Nano One Materials TSXV:NNO, a Canadian tech company that specializes in battery materials, and it provides interesting context on lithium-ion battery advancements over the last couple of decades.

Since the commercialization of the lithium-ion battery in the 1990s, there have been relatively few developments in the materials or technology used for anodes and electrolytes. For example, graphite is still the material of choice for anodes, though researchers are trying to figure out how to make the switch to silicon. Meanwhile, the electrolyte is typically a lithium salt in an organic solvent (except in lithium-ion polymer batteries).

Cathodes, on the other hand, are a very different story. That’s because they are usually made up of metal oxides or phosphates—and there are many different possible combinations that can be used.

Here are five examples of commercialized cathode formulations and the metals needed for them (aside from lithium):

Cathode Type Chemistry Example Metal Portions Example Use
NCA LiNiCoAlO2 80% nickel, 15% cobalt, 5% aluminum Tesla Model S
LCO LiCoO2 100% cobalt Apple iPhone
LMO LiMn2O4 100% manganese Nissan Leaf
NMC LiNiMnCoO2 nickel 33.3%, manganese 33.3%, cobalt 33.3% Tesla Powerwall
LFP LiFePO4 100% iron Starter batteries

Lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, aluminum and iron are just some of the metals used in current lithium-ion batteries out there—and each battery type has considerably different properties. The type of cathode chosen can affect the energy density, power density, safety, cycle life and cost of the overall battery, and this is why researchers are constantly experimenting with new ideas and combinations.

Drilling down

For companies like Tesla, which wants the exit rate of lithium-ion cells to be faster than “bullets from a machine gun,” the cathode is of paramount importance. Historically, it’s where most advancements in lithium-ion battery technology have been made.

Cathode choice is a major factor for determining battery energy density and cathodes also typically account for 25% of lithium-ion battery costs. That means the cathode can impact both the performance and cost pieces of the $/kWh equation—and building a better cathode will likely be a key driver for the success of the green revolution.

Luckily, the future of cathode development has many exciting prospects. These include concepts such as building cathodes with layered-layered composite structures or orthosilicates, as well as improvements to the fundamental material processes used in cathode assembly.

As these new technologies are applied, the cost of lithium-ion batteries will continue to decrease. In fact, experts are now saying that it won’t be long before batteries will hit $80 per kWh—a cost that would make EVs undeniably cheaper than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

Related:

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Lithium-ion’s bigger picture

April 25th, 2017

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

by Greg Klein

He dates it to what he calls “lithium’s Big Bang,” the February 2014 announcement of Tesla’s first gigafactory. New investment rejuvenated the juniors, as they set out in search of new supply. But “it’s not just the metals and mining space that’s seen an influx of capital,” Chris Berry points out. As an independent consultant to asset managers, he’s spent a lot of time over the last 18 months “talking to what I call new types of money that are trying to understand the lithium-ion space.”

He brought his perspective to Vancouver on the April 21 stop of the Benchmark Mineral Intelligence World Tour.

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

Although lithium prices continue their ascent, the battery-powered revolution is “really rooted in economics,” explained the president of House Mountain Partners and editor of the Disruptive Discoveries Journal. “I don’t think this technology-driven deflation in battery prices can really be stopped…. Lithium-ion battery prices have fallen 60% in the last three years alone, just since the gigafactory announcement.”

With more battery megafactories coming (Benchmark currently tracks 15 existing or planned projects), he believes price deflation will “continue, perhaps intensify, for the next five to 10 years.”

That can only encourage further electric vehicle sales. And apart from the practical advantages of EVs, driving them is “a really transformative experience. There really is nothing like it,” he maintains.

There’s no questioning future demand for energy minerals, he insists. But there is a question of whether supply “will overshoot or undershoot.”

Even so he sees “a very robust supply chain response” that goes beyond Albemarle NYSE:ALB, FMC NYSE:FMC and SQM NYSE:SQM to include, for example, Intel’s $15-billion takeout of driverless car designer Mobileye, Chinese EV/energy storage manufacturer BYD’s plans to boost its battery production to megafactory stature and Beijing-based search engine giant Baidu’s cash injection into NextEV. “This entire lithium-ion supply chain is continuing to grow, continuing to see huge investment,” Berry emphasized.

“The beauty of it is there are a number of different ways you can gain exposure.” Fund managers and others with deep pockets might compare Albemarle with SQM, but Berry suggested also comparing the “risk/reward paradigm” of such companies with an outfit like Nano One Materials TSXV:NNO, a Vancouver-based company working to transform battery design.

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

Chris Berry: “This entire lithium-ion supply
chain is continuing to grow, continuing
to see huge investment.”

Of course the pace of new development raises questions about operating margins. “Does it make sense to focus on a company like Albemarle that has a 40% EBITDA profit margin?” he asked. “Or does it make sense to go further down the supply chain and think about a company like Panasonic, much different than Albemarle but still heavily invested and involved in the lithium supply chain? The challenge, I would argue, with Panasonic is that they are going to get a tremendous amount of competition from BYD, Tesla and a number of other battery manufacturers. So the profit margin of Panasonic, despite being one of the biggest players in the space, is going to shrink.”

Looking back at lithium exploration and development projects, Berry said different extraction technologies offer miners and would-be miners additional opportunities to leverage themselves to investors.

For all that, one of Berry’s concluding remarks must have taken many attendees by surprise. Benchmark managing director Simon Moores asked why attention so often focuses on lithium and not other battery materials.

Berry’s response? “I would actually be the most optimistic about nickel, cobalt and lithium in that order.” But noting China’s long-term strategy in building supply chains, he added, “The interesting thing about lithium relative to other niche metals is that China doesn’t have a stranglehold on it.”

Nevertheless, he cautioned, about 60% of battery capacity comes from China.

Read about Simon Moores discussing the rise of battery megafactories.

King’s Bay flies geophysics over Labrador copper-cobalt project

February 28th, 2017

by Greg Klein | February 28, 2017

Following a 12-fold expansion of the property last month, King’s Bay Gold TSXV:KBG announced a VTEM survey now airborne on the Lynx Lake copper-cobalt project in southeastern Labrador. Survey operator Geotech Ltd says its proprietary system reaches more than 800 metres in depth, featuring high spatial resolution as well as a low base frequency to pass through conductive overburden. “This system is advertised to be able to delineate potential drill hole targets from the airborne results,” King’s Bay stated. The survey’s expected to wrap up by mid-April.

King’s Bay flies geophysics over Labrador copper-cobalt project

Field work revealed gossan and
massive sulphides at Lynx Lake.

Lynx Lake’s potential came to light after the Trans-Labrador Highway opened up the region in 2008. Grab samples from the 24,000-hectare property’s east side showed non-43-101 results up to 1.39% copper, 0.94% cobalt, 0.21% nickel and 6.5 g/t silver. On the west side, non-43-101 grab samples assayed up to 1.03% copper, 0.566% cobalt, 0.1% nickel, 5 g/t silver, 0.36% chromium, 0.39% molybdenum and 0.23% vanadium.

A regional low-res magnetic survey conducted by the province and a hand-held EM device brought preliminary indications of strong conductors in the area. A 90-minute drive from the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Lynx Lake has powerlines and a highway adjacent to the property.

Two weeks earlier King’s Bay announced a 100% option on the Trump Island property in Newfoundland, where a shipment of high-grade copper-cobalt material was reportedly mined in 1863. In early February the company picked up three Quebec properties, all of which had historic, non-43-101 sampling results showing cobalt.

King’s Bay closed a $938,752 private placement in January.

See an infographic: Cobalt—A precarious supply chain.